An enzyme, which plays a role in metabolizing vitamin D, can predict lung cancer survival, scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered.
Previous research has shown that vitamin D may be able to stop or prevent cancer. But the new study revealed that the enzyme, called CYP24A1, stops the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D.
Levels of CYP24A1 were elevated as much as 50 times in lung adenocarcinoma compared with normal lung tissue.
The higher the level of CYP24A1, the more likely tumors were to be aggressive.
About a third of lung cancer patients had high levels of the enzyme. After five years, those patients had nearly half the survival rate as patients with low levels of the enzyme.
Researchers then linked this to how CYP24A1 interacts with calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D.
CYP24A1 breaks down calcitriol, which has a normal and crucial role when kept in check. But when levels of CYP24A1 climb, the enzyme begins to hinder the positive anti-cancer effects of vitamin D.
"A natural compound like vitamin D is attractive because it has few side effects, but it's even better if we can determine exactly who would benefit from receiving vitamin D," said study author Nithya Ramnath.
The study appeared in Clinical Cancer Research.